In honor of World Breastfeeding Week:
I don’t remember ever consciously making a decision to breastfeed. I just always assumed, if I had kids, that I would. In fact, when I was about 24, I decided against breast reduction surgery because the surgeons told me that if I had one, I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed.
So, O was born. And the pressure at the hospital to nurse was insane. I was grateful that the hospital was supportive of my decision to nurse, but the schedules, and check boxes, and timelines…they made me feel like giving up. The nurses wanted to know how many drops of colostrum he’d eaten (I find this ridiculous, because my breasts are not see through – how the hell do I know how many drops he ate?), or they wanted to see him nursing 20 minutes per side every two hours. Getting him to latch was a nightmare – both he and I were reduced to tears on more than one occasion. Every nurse had a different suggestion, and most of them made me feel like if I couldn’t get him to latch, well there was always formula.
I was exhausted from 2 days of labor – I didn’t need to feel like breastfeeding was going to be an uphill battle. (In defense of the hospital’s approach – I’m sure they want to make sure they are sending babies home who have established good nursing practices. The problem is that it can take more than 2 days to establish good nursing practices, and once you’re out the hospital door, in the U.S., that’s the end of their responsibility. There is no follow-up at home. (Which is a whole ‘nother post about how new mothers, new parents, are not supported adequately in the U.S.) *I* was lucky, in that my midwives would be coming to my home to offer me breastfeeding support, and coaching.) Formula seemed like such an easy alternative – the pediatric nurse kept offering to bring some in – and I caved and N fed him bottle of formula while we were in the hospital. (After that, one of my midwives offered me a piece of priceless advice – she suggested that I simply lie about his feedings. “Tell them what they want to hear.” So that’s what I did.)
After a few days O and I managed to find ONE position the nurse in; the football hold. It was great that we were successful, but the football hold is probably the least portable hold there is. I stopped being anxious about being capable of feeding him, and started being anxious about being stuck in the house for the next year.
I remember taking a walk with N about a week after O was born, and unloading all the fears I had about breastfeeding. I worried about being “tied” to O. That I wouldn’t be able to manage, emotionally, the responsibility that comes with breastfeeding. That I would resent being needed. That I would feel trapped. That I would be isolated.
I did feel all of those things at various times early on. But as time passed, and I got more comfortable nursing, and O got better at it, and we mastered new positions, nursing became second nature to me. It’s just what I did.
There’s a statistic floating around that one of the greatest indicators of whether or not a woman will breastfeed, and for how long, is how supportive her partner is. For this I give N a standing ovation. He was completely supportive from day 1 and did everything to help me be successful. In the beginning he brought me a million glasses of water. And then he would sit and keep me company. If we were getting ready to go out, he would stop and say, “Do you want to nurse him before we leave?” I never felt like I was inconveniencing him, even if it meant we did things a lot slower than we used to.
It’s been almost 11 months. O shows no signs of slowing down. He still nurses at least once a night, and several times during the day. I have mixed feelings about weaning, as I’m sure many moms do. Sometimes I can’t wait for the day, and other times I think I’ll miss the cuddles. Whatever happens, I’m proud that we’ve come this far, and I’ll keep going as long as he wants.